When not responding to emergency situations, such as 9/11, the New Jersey-based company engages in construction projects along continental coastal perimeters and beyond. Dan Harvey describes a century of service.
Started almost 100 years ago as a two-crane operation, Weeks Marine Inc. has grown into the leading and largest marine construction and dredging company in the country. An impressive New York City waterfront presence, the Cranford, N.J.-headquartered organization is a multi-divisional enterprise boasting a large equipment fleet that enables it to accomplish enormous tasks.
For instance, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Weeks Marine engaged in urgent-response activities that included emergency dredging. As the sole provider for waterborne operations for the World Trade Center Recovery Project, the company designed and constructed four temporary barge ports, and it transported and delivered nearly two million tons of debris from Ground Zero. “We lifted all steel and rubble with a floating crane, placed the debris onto barges and delivered it to locations in New York and New Jersey,” recalls Jason Marchioni, manager of the company’s heavy lift and salvage division.
Working on a 24/7 basis, and deploying one barge at a time, Weeks Marine moved nearly 300,000 tons a month.
One might be tempted to say that it’s all in a day’s work for Weeks Marine. After all, the company engages in a variety of largescale, complex projects in far-flung regions. It has dredged ship channels in the Virgin Islands, performed salvage operations in the Chesapeake Bay, and accomplished beach replenishment in Florida. Its readily accessible equipment fleet includes cranes, tugs, dredges, barges and other waterborne equipment.
The pride of the fleet is a Clyde model 52 crane, one of the biggest waterborne cranes on the East Coast. It’s so huge that its boom extends more than 240 feet and its control room dimensions could accommodate a small house. “The crane weighs 750 tons, is mounted on a 300-foot steel barge and can lift and rotate as much as a 500-ton load,” reports Marchioni.
Aforementioned accomplishments are possible when you have nearly a century’s worth of growth and experience. Weeks Marine’s beginnings date back to 1919, when Francis Weeks established the Weeks Stevedoring Company, a two-crane operation located in the Port of New York that handled bunker coal and dry ballast.
Growth kicked into high gear in the 1950s, when Weeks Stevedoring Company ventured outside of stevedoring and into a number of marine projects. Besides salvage and dredging work performed, it installed navigational aids for the United States Coast Guard and constructed a breakwater to protect the airshaft leading from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Governors Island. The company also became the prime contractor assigned to remove abandoned wooden vessels for the Army Corp of Engineers. In 1958, Weeks purchased its first crane used exclusively outside the field of stevedoring.
During the 1960s, Weeks added barges and a dump scow to its growing fleet. In the 1970s, it enlarged itself even more by developing the core of its current infrastructure and purchasing its first hydraulic dredge and first large tug. Through the 1980s and ‘90s, the company increased its size by acquiring assets of notable marine companies including M.P. Howlett, a New York-based stevedoring operation, and T.L. James, a Louisiana-based dredging company, as well as the world-renowned American Dredging Company.
During its entire existence, the company remained in family hands and, through its acquisitions and organic development, grew to become the United States’ largest marine construction company. Staffed by more than 1,000 employees, Weeks Marine Inc. now includes six divisions as well as offices in New Jersey, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia and Hawaii, and six marine yards (in Camden and Jersey City, N.J.; Portsmouth, Va., Houma, La.; Bourg, La., and Hawaii).
After all of its enormous growth and diversification, the company remains involved in stevedoring activities with a division that represents the largest bulk stevedore operation in the Port of New York and one of the largest on the East Coast. Operations encompass territory from Nova Scotia to Tampa, Fla. Equipment includes four model-28 Clyde gantry cranes equipped with 28 cubic-yard clamshells for rough bulk such as scrap and stone. Each gantry-mounted crane is capable of handling Cape-sized vessels and traverses the full length of a 250-foot barge that expedites operations. The division also includes floating cranes with lower capacity and smaller attachment sizes for barge work as well as cost-effective material handling on aggregate and soil movement projects, the company reports.
In addition to the stevedoring and heavy lift and salvage divisions, the company’s departmental breakdown includes dredging, construction, towing, stevedoring and equipment charter/rental divisions. Weeks Marine’s dredging division is one of the country’s largest service providers, as it operates hopper and clamshell dredges. Division specialties include navigation infrastructure, environment and habitat restoration, and shore protection.
The company’s construction division, which has an international scope, specializes in marine-related construction projects both large and small. It also offers demolition services. With its affiliate, Healy Tibbitts Builders, Inc. of Hawaii, it has completed projects along the coastlines and waterways of the U.S. mainland, Canada, Caribbean Basin, Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, and Central and South America. Specific construction projects include piers, jetties, pipelines, bridges, sewer outfalls, and offshore platforms.
The company’s towing division specializes in tampen and difficult tows. The division possesses more than 30 tugboats of various sizes and horsepower (ranging from 1,000 to 4,200hp) as well as hundreds of deck, hopper and specialized barges. It provides towing services on both the east and west coasts of North and South America and in Hawaii. Vessels also traverse Caribbean Sea waters. Additional divisional services include harbor towing, emergency salvage towing, ship assists, and tending and towing for the marine construction and dredging industries.
The equipment charter/rental division provides floating equipment such as barges, cranes and tugboats to outside parties at competitive rates.
bHEAVY DUTY LIFTING
The heavy lift and salvage division has served maritime and commercial industries for four decades. Currently, it provides customers with waterborne lift services accomplished via floating cranes (ranging from 35 to 700 tons), steel deck barges (ranging in size from 90-by-30 feet to 250-by-75 feet and in capacity from 250 to 5,000 tons), and tugboats with a 400 to 4,200hp range. The division also offers marine salvage, vessel engine room lift and wreck removal services. The division specializes in turn-key marine packages, offering a one-stop solution to any project.
The division is currently involved in an $11-million project in which obsolete New York City Transit subway cars are transported to shorelines and deployed to form artificial reefs. “Specifically, the contract involves transporting about 1,700 retired cars along the New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia coastlines,” reports Marchioni. “The project should be completed by 2011 or 2012.”
For the project, the Transit Authority first cleans the retired cars of all unfriendly environmental materials and groups these in its yard. Then they are transported from the yard to environmentally approved drop sites board the Weeks Marine’s 297 barge by a Weeks Marine tug. These are deployed using a Caterpillar 5110 excavator with an engineered fork attachment that was designed in house.
Such capabilities have helped earn Weeks Marine Inc. a 110 ranking on the “Engineering News-Record” 2007 top 400 contractors list. Further, they underscore the way the company modifies its response and service to best suit customer-specific needs. Looking at the broader picture, Weeks Marine deploys its six divisions in such a way to ensure completion of a wide variety of projects. As wide as an ocean, as deep as the sea – those age-old descriptions readily apply to the company’s value.